Current Status of Government Regulation of Activities Associated with the Import of Spent Nuclear Fuel into the Russian Federation*
A. M. Dmitriev
Russian Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety
Government regulation of nuclear and radiation security activities associated with the import of spent nuclear fuel into the Russian Federation is enforced in accordance with international agreements, federal laws, decrees of the president of the Russian Federation, resolutions of the Russian Government, the Statute on the Russian Federal Inspectorate for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (Gosatomnadzor), various federal norms and rules, and Gosatomnadzor regulatory documents.
Two organizations under the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) are involved in activities associated with the acceptance of spent nuclear fuel from foreign nuclear power plants—the Mayak Production Association (spent fuel from water-moderated water-cooled power reactors [VVER-440]) and the Mining-Chemical Complex (spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors).
Located at the Mayak Production Association in the city of Ozersk, the Russian Federation’s only operating spent fuel reprocessing enterprise—the RT-1 plant—can accept for reprocessing spent fuel from nuclear power plants with VVER-440, BN-600, and BN-350 reactors as well as from research reactors and atomic-powered ships and submarines. In contrast to its designed capacity of 400 metric tons per year, in recent years the RT-1 plant has processed no more than 150 metric tons per year. In 2003 Mayak plans to reprocess 132 metric tons of spent fuel of various types.
Construction of the RT-2 plant at the Mining-Chemical Complex in Zheleznogorsk was halted in 1989. The technology proposed for the plant, which was
intended for reprocessing spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors, had become obsolete and no longer met modern requirements. The only unit of the RT-2 plant that was completed was the spent fuel storage facility, which had a planned capacity of 13,416 fuel assemblies from VVER-1000-type reactors (6000 metric tons of uranium by weight). At this time the facility has been filled to approximately 57 percent of its planned capacity.
In 2002 the above-mentioned enterprises received six special shipments of spent fuel from nuclear power plants in Ukraine and one from Bulgaria (specifically, Mayak received one shipment from the Rovno Nuclear Power Plant, while the Mining-Chemical Complex received one shipment each from the Khmelnitsky, Zaporozhye, and Rovno plants, two from the South Ukrainian Nuclear Power Plant, and one from the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria). Last year Mayak received 27.4 metric tons. The total amount of spent nuclear fuel received by the existing storage facility at the Mining-Chemical Complex is 140 metric tons from the Ukrainian power plants and 41.5 metric tons from the one in Bulgaria. The following shipments are planned in 2003:
Mayak: one shipment from the Rovno plant and one from the Kozloduy plant
Mining-Chemical Complex: three shipments from the South Ukrainian plant, one from the Khmelnitsky plant, and one from Kozloduy
The way that the spent fuel is transported is important from the security standpoint. In shipping spent fuel from VVER-440 reactors, 16 TK-6 rail containers are used. Designed in 1973–1978, a period characterized by a lack of experience in such operations and of relevant regulatory documents, the TK-6 is a first-generation container. Its design does not make it completely secure. The TUK-6 transport cask used with this container is categorized as type B(M), which must be used with certain restrictions and constant monitoring by operators.
Spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors has been transported since 1986, using TK-10 and TK-13 rail containers and TUK-10V and TUK-13V transport casks. The TUK-13/1V includes a vessel made of corrosion-resistant steel (container and documentation produced by the Izhorsk Plants Open Joint-Stock Company).
According to the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the TUK-13 transport casks are considered to be type B(U), and their design fully ensures the security of the spent fuel transported in them. In shipping spent fuel with this sort of packaging no special organizational or technical measures are required to monitor packaging and environmental parameters or to ensure that these parameters are maintained within permissible limits. The TUK-10V transport cask is analogous in design to the TUK-13; however, its capacity is 50 percent lower (6 spent fuel rods as opposed to 12 with the TUK-13), and its body is made of 20-mark carbon steel, just like the body of the TK-6 container.
At present, demand for shipping containers and casks for transporting spent fuel from VVER-1000 reactors is being met in full. There are 40 unused TUK-13V casks at nuclear power plants in Russia and Ukraine. These shipping containers and transport casks for VVER-1000 spent fuel were manufactured between 1983 and 1992, and their 20-year service life runs out in the period 2003 to 2012.
FEDERAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Three federal laws (FL) were passed in 2001:
On Amending the Federal Law on the Use of Atomic Energy, July 10, 2001, No. 94-FL
On Amending Article 50 of the Law of the Russian Soviet Federal Socialist Republic (RSFSR) on Environmental Protection, July 10, 2001, No. 93-FL
On Special Environmental Programs for Rehabilitating Radiation-Contaminated Areas, July 10, 2001, No. 92-FL
The additions made to Article 50 of the RSFSR Law on Environmental Protection were included in full in Federal Law 7-FL on Environmental Protection dated January 10, 1992.
To effect control over the import of foreign-made irradiated fuel rods into the Russian Federation and in accordance with Decree No. 828 of the president of the Russian Federation (July 10, 2001), a special commission was to be formed, to be chaired by Russian Academy of Sciences Vice President Zhores I. Alferov, who also serves as a deputy in the State Duma of the Federal Council of the Russian Federation. A draft presidential decree has been prepared and is being processed by the president’s staff.
On October 15, 2001, the Russian government issued Order No. 1371-r confirming the Plan for the Preparation of Draft Resolutions of the Government of the Russian Federation Necessary for Implementing the Federal Laws on Special Environmental Programs for Rehabilitating Radiation-Contaminated Areas and on Amending Article 50 of the RSFSR Law on Environmental Protection. This order called for the creation of five draft resolutions for the Russian government, two of which (Procedures for the Importation of Irradiated Fuel Rods into the Russian Federation and the Return to the State of Origin of Nuclear Materials or Radioactive Wastes from These Spent Fuel Rods; and Procedures and Timelines for the Development of Special Environmental Programs) were developed in cooperation with Gosatomnadzor.
In accordance with Russian Government Order IK-P7-15492 dated September 1, 2001, officials have developed the Plan for Preparation of Draft Decisions
on Amending Regulatory Legal Acts of the President of the Russian Federation as Necessary to Comply with the Federal Law on Amending Article 50 of the RSFSR Law on Environmental Protection.
The changes and additions were made in the following decrees by Presidential Decree 1284 on the Making of Changes and Additions to Certain Decrees of the Russian Federation President on Matters of Spent Nuclear Fuel Management in order to bring them into accordance with the Federal Law on Environmental Protection:
On Fulfillment by the Russian Federation of Intergovernmental Agreements on Cooperation in the Construction of Nuclear Power Plants Abroad, April 21, 1993, No. 472
On State Support for the Restructuring and Conversion of the Atomic Industry in the City of Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, April 25, 1995, No. 72
On Additional Measures to Strengthen Control over Compliance with Environmental Security Requirements in the Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel, April 20, 1995, No. 389
Regulations concerning activities associated with the import of spent nuclear fuel include regulations on the operation of storage facilities and nuclear plants involved in reprocessing and transporting spent fuel as well as managing the radioactive wastes created as a result of reprocessing operations.
In recent years a number of regulatory documents with a direct impact on the security of spent fuel management have been developed and put into effect.
The Rules for Safety in the Transportation of Radioactive Materials have been prepared for implementation, and their safety requirements for shipping and packaging are in full accord with analogous IAEA rules governing the safe shipment of radioactive materials by all forms of transport.
Mayak and the Mining-Chemical Complex operate on the basis of the following Gosatomnadzor licenses:
License GN-03-115-1060 dated February 14, 2002, for operation of a complex to handle nuclear materials (Plant 235) intended for the radiochemical reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and management (reprocessing, storage) of radioactive wastes created as a result of the processing of spent fuel and of the defense-related activities of Mayak (valid until February 29, 2004)
License 05-401-0748 dated January 31, 2002, for management of nuclear materials being transported (valid until May 1, 2005)
License GN-03-301-0724 dated December 25, 2001, for operation of a stationary facility intended for the storage of nuclear materials (repository for irradiated VVER-1000 fuel rods containing spent nuclear fuel)
License 05-401-0723 dated December 25, 2001, for management of nuclear materials being transported (valid until March 1, 2005)
Spent nuclear fuel from foreign nuclear power plants is imported after issuance of Gosatomnadzor permits to the reprocessing enterprise and the client organization, which must apply to the Russian Ministry of Economic Development to obtain a spent fuel import license.
The specific quantity of spent fuel to be received for reprocessing is determined by Minatom after taking into account the environmental situation in the region where the reprocessing enterprises are located. The decision is coordinated with federal environmental protection agencies and executive branch agencies of regional (oblast or krai) and local governments.
The total content of radionuclides (activity) of the solidified radioactive wastes to be returned to the country that shipped the spent fuel is determined by mutually agreed methodology, taking into account the time at which the spent fuel arrives and the time the solidified wastes are held for storage.
State oversight over the importation of foreign spent fuel into the Russian Federation is carried out by Gosatomnadzor’s Urals and Siberian branches.
The Mining-Chemical Complex accepts spent fuel at the border of the Russian Federation. At that point the Mining-Chemical Complex assumes from the spent fuel supplier the risk of accidental loss or damage as well as the responsibility for providing physical security for the nuclear materials.
Insurance policies are drawn up on each shipment to provide a contract covering civil liability to third parties for losses and damage caused by the effects of radiation during the shipment of radioactive substances, nuclear materials, and associated products. Copies of the insurance policies are submitted to Gosatomnadzor.
When a trainload of these materials is dispatched, the inspection department checks the following:
certificates and associated regulatory documents on the technical condition of the transport casks, as well as certificates on technical and maintenance
reviews of the rail containers conducted at specialized enterprises of the Russian Ministry of Railways
certificates on the return of transport casks to service after completion of maintenance work (if such work was completed)
certificate-permits for B(U)-category design and shipment
agreement on the transfer of responsibility for the physical security of the spent fuel signed by the governments of all countries through which the shipment will pass
PROBLEMS INVOLVED IN THE IMPORT OF FOREIGN SPENT FUEL INTO THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION
The Russian Federation currently has very limited technical capabilities for accepting irradiated fuel rods from foreign states for reprocessing and temporary technical storage. This is due to the following circumstances:
The RT-1 plant (Plant 235) has been in operation for 25 years and its equipment is worn out and in need of modernization, especially taking into account the need to create sections for the conditioning of all types of radioactive wastes.
There is a worldwide trend toward increasing the depth of nuclear fuel burn-up, which raises the issue of the expediency of reprocessing irradiated fuel rods, that is, such fuel contains significantly less useful uranium and more fission products and has a higher total radioactivity level. Reprocessing this sort of fuel and subsequently using the regenerated materials becomes technically and economically impractical. For this reason the concept of the closed nuclear fuel cycle is being called into question throughout the world.
The use of the remaining capacity of the spent fuel repository at the Mining-Chemical Complex to store foreign irradiated fuel rods threatens the possibility of using this capacity to store fuel rods from Russian nuclear power plants, as this could lead to the accumulation of spent fuel rods at the power plants beyond the designed capacity and could force them to halt their operations.
As noted previously, operations involving the transport of irradiated fuel rods are currently carried out using Russian-made shipping containers and packaging units. Given the current volume of foreign shipments (shipments of Russian-made fuel rods from abroad total no more than 200 metric tons per year), the existing quantity of shipping containers and transport casks meets the demands of Mayak and the Mining-Chemical Complex. However, as soon as we start talking about shipping thousands of metric tons, the existing containers and casks will be insufficient and will have to be manufactured on a massive scale, which will require correspondingly substantial amounts of time and financial resources.
Furthermore, we must not forget that the importation of irradiated fuel rods from foreign boiling-water reactors (BWR) and pressurized water reactors (PWR) is currently problematic, as the shipping containers and other equipment at Mayak and the Mining-Chemical Complex are not appropriate for use with foreign transport casks holding fuel rods from these reactors, and the Russian casks are not certified for use abroad and could not be used to ship these sorts of fuel rods. Minatom is holding a competition for the development of a standardized transport cask for irradiated fuel rods from VVER-440, VVER-1000, high-power channel reactors (RBMK-1000), BWR, and PWR. Seven cask designs differing in form and type of materials used have been entered in the competition.
International relations involved in the management of spent fuel rods are regulated at the level of the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management as well as by intergovernmental agreements. Given the intent of the Russian Federation to expand the range of goods and services it offers on the world market, high priority should be given to implementing the provisions of this Joint Convention in Russia.
Nuclear and radiation security in the management of spent fuel rods can be achieved only through the observance of existing laws, norms, and rules regarding the use of nuclear energy. However, it must be noted that law and regulatory requirements in the Russian Federation do not fully cover the entire sphere of spent fuel rod management.
An analysis of potential accidents in normal and extreme conditions (including acts of terrorism) during the shipment of irradiated fuel rods shows that localized radiation contamination of the environment is possible. A breach in the packaging unit during an accident could lead to localized radioactive contamination up to a dose level of 20 R/hour. The fact that accidents could occur gives rise to the legal problem of who bears responsibility for the nuclear damages, a problem that could become a serious impediment to the successful activities of Russian organizations in the world market for spent fuel management services.
In 1995 the Russian Federation signed the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage. The draft of the Federal Law on Civil Legal Responsibility for the Causing of Nuclear Damage and Provision of Financial Compensation has been under review by the State Duma since 1997. The lack of legal regulation on this matter is undoubtedly having a negative effect on insurance activities in this field.